In light of recent news reports, we acknowledge the pain, betrayal, and confusion that many of our congregation members and rostered ministers may be feeling. Many congregations are asking what more can be done to protect our congregants, particularly children. The safety of children is one of our synod’s highest priorities. The church should be a safe place where people can worship, learn, work, love and receive care in a manner that is free from sexual misconduct. Our children’s safety is every member’s responsibility; there is no substitute for care and vigilance.
A written policy statement is an important first step toward preventing sexual misconduct or harassment. We encourage congregations to adopt a Child Protection Policy. The adoption of a Child Protection Policy does not automatically make a congregation a safer place for children; however, it is a positive first step. On November 14, 2015, we adopted this sample Child Protection Policy. In addition, we recommend that congregations organize a Child Protection Policy Committee or utilize another existing committee and charge that committee with the responsibility of implementing and monitoring compliance with the Child Protection Policy.
Both the ELCA and our synod have numerous resources available to assist congregations in preparing their own policies, identifying and preventing sexual misconduct, and screening staff and volunteer leaders. One example includes the ELCA’s Safe Connections: What Parishioners Can Do to Understand and Prevent Clergy Sexual Abuse resource and other congregational material found on our website.
For assistance with your congregation’s child protection policies or protocols, please contact Pastor Rob Blezard or Pastor Sharron Blezard, Assistants to the Bishop.